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'Extremely Tired' Driver of Blue Line Train May Have 'Dozed Off' Before O'Hare Crash, Union Leader Says

Dozens of people were injured when a train derailed at O'Hare International Airport. Service may not be restored until sometime Tuesday.

Screen grab from CBS.
Screen grab from CBS.

A top CTA union leader says the driver of the Blue Line train that derailed at O'Hare International Airport "might have dozed off" because "she was extremely tired."

Robert Kelly, head of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, told reporters at a news conference Monday afternoon that "she worked a lot of hours" prior to the eight-car train jumping the platform and plowing up an escalator, injuring 32 people aboard the train just before 3 a.m.

Six of the injuries were deemed serious but none were life-threatening.

The station will not re-open until the investigation is completed, possibly Tuesday. National Transportation Safety Board investigators are on the scene. The train cars remain on the escalator, reports the Tribune. Whether the driver contributed to the cause is a focus of the probe.

“The train is not going to go anywhere for the foreseeable future,” said Tim DePaepe, a railroad accident investigator. “It’s not going anywhere today. We need to examine the train and the position it’s in prior to its movement.”

DePaepe said event recorders and video footage will be reviewed to determine the train's speed as it hit the platform.

Passengers can ride a shuttle from Rosemont to the airport. The shuttle runs between the Forest Park station to Rosemont, reports the Sun-Times.

Officials told WGN the train jumped a bumper at the end of the line before driving up an escalator into a mostly empty station.

Chicago Fire Department officials told the Sun-Times the motorwoman "walking and talking" after the crash.

One passenger said he heard the recorded voice announce the final stop but the train kept going. After a "boom," Dion Stokes told the paper, the lights went out for a few seconds and people throughout the car began screaming. “I never seen nothing like this — this is like stuff you only see on TV."

Stokes was near the front of the train and flew from one side of the car to the other. Stokes, 21, hurt his ankle.

Milka Overton, a 26-year-old TSA agent on her way to work, told the Tribune she also was hurt in the crash.

"Oh, Jesus, I got tossed so bad," she said from the hospital. "I got tossed from one end of the train to the other end of the train."

Stones March 27, 2014 at 08:22 AM
A comma after drunk, and you're going to call someone stupid?
Arthur Huff March 27, 2014 at 10:28 AM
I don't know why I'm even going to ask this, but Art can you explain to all of us how her being in a union contributed to this? I think we can all agree that you seem to be slightly anti-union. And I will admit that you have made a couple good points about unions, even though your juvenile approach makes your points seem less than correct. I know a little bit about railroads and can tell you that hours of service rules are regulated by the Federal Rail Administration, not some union. Her first incident where she went past a station because she dozed off is what strikes me as odd. She's only been a train operator for two months according to a CBSnews.com article. Was she on some kind of probation? If so, how does someone on probation who admits to falling asleep while operating a train keep their job and only get yelled at? IF, and that's a capital I-F, IF the union had a role in the first incident being handled very casually then I say Art has a point about unions here. However, so far we have no evidence to suggest that and at this point it seems the CTA is who needs to answer a few questions.
Deerfield Resident March 27, 2014 at 10:41 AM
Arthur....the complaint about unions is that they defend employees such as her....she should have been fired the first time! She has people's lives in her hands....unions make it impossible to weed out bad employees...
Arthur Huff March 27, 2014 at 10:51 AM
Deerfield, if it comes out that the union had a role in what happened in February being handled the way it was then I'm right there with you. But we don't know that yet. All we know now is that the CTA handled it that way, we don't know why. For what it's worth, and I'm just pointing out facts for the sake of the discussion, in this crash and the one in New York it was a union official who told the press that the operator dozed off. Doesn't sound like they were trying to protect either of them, does it? In both of these cases they could just give us the standard "we are still trying to determine the cause blah blah blah" but in both cases they admitted right away that the driver was totally at fault. I'm not saying unions are perfect and don't obstruct weeding out bad employees, i.e teachers and tenure, but in this case we have no indication YET that it played a role.
Sue1 March 28, 2014 at 11:25 AM
It would be interesting to get a copy of their contract. I would bet they have some sort of progressive discipline language in it, which would explain why she wasn't fired after the first incident.

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